Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 75-72 win over No. 3 Wisconsin on Tuesday night at Assembly Hall.
Watch his comment in the media player below:
A full transcript is available after the jump.
I asked the players the same question: What was working for you guys both off the dribble and in play calls and everything getting to the rim? It seemed they couldn’t stop you from getting to the paint and getting to the rim?
It was very important we get to the basket. We need to get in the lane whether it’s through the post or the drive. I thought we were good at getting to the basket in the first half, and it was there in the second half and we started to settle. We didn’t come out with five guys having the needed energy defensively that we needed, and we let Jackson get loose after doing a very good job on him in the first half.
Then we started settling for jumpers, and they had sagged their defense some, but that just meant that we needed to reverse it a little bit more.
But we made some changes. We changed our defensive coverages, and when we cut it to 8, I believe, we were playing solid, but with our crowd, went to great. Our crowd was exactly what we’ve become accustomed to them being. We got down, and I know the last couple years we haven’t been in many of those situations. But we got down, and our crowd got us back. I thought that was the absolute turning point in the game because our guys fed off of that.
We had a lot of different lineups out there. It was just a matter of changing the momentum of the game and the crowd did a great job of that in helping us.
You were down 15, at Penn State you were down 10, what’s it mean to your program?
To the program? The program has had a lot of big wins. To the team it means a great deal. This is a high level winning program long before I came and long after I’m here. To me the team needs this. I mean, we’ve had a long week from Michigan State to Penn State, but we got a lot better. We got a lot better in the last couple days.
It’s just amazing what happens when some real confidence starts to come. It’s still a fight to get them to believe. That’s even because when we got down ten, they’re still not they still don’t quite understand. Sometimes they’re down like that when they’re not used to it, and 15 looks like 25 or 10 looks like 20. That’s not true. There are a lot of possessions in the game.
I have great confidence in them, and I hope they looked back and saw that I as a coach and coaching staff we felt like it was just a matter of us stemming the tide. But you’ve got to make moves in the game, see what happens, some work, some don’t. Bottom line is we persevered.
Yogi misses his first seven threes, but as he’s shooting the eighth is there any doubt in your mind that he’s going to make it?
I don’t remember that one. I knew that I know that he was unguardable getting to the basket. That is the biggest difference there. So the biggest thing is he’s a big game player. The last time he didn’t win a championship was his sophomore year. He probably won his conference. He finished as a finalist, right, for the championship at Park Tudor.
So he knows how to win. He’s getting better. I thought he had some carryover on some of the stuff that we wanted to do in this game. Because what we try to keep getting these guys to understand is we’re a concept team, but we’re also very game plan specific. So there are a lot of things that you want to have down that are your concepts, offensively and defensively. But today it was game plan specific. And some things for him offensively were game plan specific, and he transferred those skills right to the court today after a couple of days. That’s what makes us different.
When he’s attacking and there is no predetermination, when he’s not settling, he’s fantastic, and he made a big, big difference for us tonight.
Stan played a lot of minutes.
Yeah, I haven’t really looked at this.
In crunch time it seemed he was attacking the rim.
Absolutely, he’s natural at that. He’s got a gift of that, and he’s gotten better with his right hand. That’s been a big deal, lot of improvement there. In the beginning he didn’t trust his right hand at all. It wasn’t good enough. Now it’s a lot better, and it’s going to get better.
But he’s got a lot of fight in him. I thought it was a change when we put him in and put him on Jackson. But we didn’t get any momentum because we kept shooting jump shots. We made a couple more substitutions, changed our defense and we took off, so he was a big part of all of that.
How different was this game in terms of the speed, tempo or just overall dynamics from games you’ve had against them in the past and what let you guys get back in when you were down?
I think if you look at the numbers going into it there is not a lot different on their time of possession, per se. It’s still around 21, 22 seconds. But they’re so capable. There is nobody on the court. You have to have some risk reward. That’s what we did when we got down ten. We had to play the risk reward game a little bit with some defense, and fortunately we were rewarded. There are times you can’t – it’s very hard to double them because they take conventional defense, help and recover, post doubling, and all those things to another level. When you do it, they expose you.
When you look late in the game, and this was one of the biggest things that we showed the team leading up to this game especially last night, how close some teams have been to them and then they give in. They don’t get the switch that they want.
I made a substitution late because we wanted to switch all five with no problem, and they just went right inside to Frank Kaminsky and it hurt us. But the premise was going to be we needed to switch everything. And Austin was playing really well with that and going offense defense with Noah.
And after that play I said, Noah, you have to bear down, you have to switch. If they try to iso you, you can’t leave your feet, and they’re good. They force you to change constantly. Unless you are just stellar and having a great night, I don’t think you can beat them one way. I don’t think you can beat them one way on offense, and you certainly can’t beat them one way on defense. Somebody might, but nobody has. We had to mix it up. I think that’s what makes them good, really good.
You come here and your ability to improve on turnovers in the last four games has been dramatic. You went from 23 to Illinois to 9 tonight. Is that as big an improvement as you’ve seen?
Yeah, and they don’t want to turn it over in practice. We’ve changed those consequences a little bit.
Can you share those?
No, no, because the moment we’ll take it to another level. No, it’s just there was the elephant in the room was visible for everybody. We were doing pretty good in so many areas, nationally even. Look at how much our shooting had improved over the last few weeks, turnovers were hurting us. We can’t play through them yet.
We’ll get there, but we’re still not going to be good enough to play through them. Look at this: We turned it over nine times and they got 17 points. That’s 11 points off five turnovers. Their numbers and they’re not just doing it to us. They do an unbelievable job turning live ball turnovers into baskets. It’s hard to beat them. They had 12 lay ups in the first half; we had 14. They had 11 points off the turnovers, and those are the reasons they capitalize so well.
The bottom line for us is we’ve got to continue to understand that. We’ve moved some people around. We’ve tweaked some sets. We’ve added some things. We’ve deleted some things because this team is just not able to maybe have that freedom at times, certain guys yet. So we had to make some of those adjustments, and you just keep doing that. It’s getting better, and that’s why we’ve won two in a row.
You spoke about confidence and now coming off two Big Ten wins, how do you feel that will transition into the rest of the season?
Well, I don’t know. I would hope it helps. It gives you a better understanding. But we’ve got to come back, and if we’ve any different level of feel for Northwestern, they just beat Illinois. I mean any night not on any given night, but any night you go into any game anybody can win these games. Home, on the road, it doesn’t make a difference, the league is that good, and that’s why it’s so strong. We’ve got to keep building the confidence of why we’re being successful.
But we’re not going to sit on this tape and sit and watch this tape and have a pizza party and get some ice cream and say, wow, we couldn’t have played any better. We’re not. I’m not upset about it. I think we’ve got a lot of potential, but you coach this game expecting to win it.
I thought, again, I don’t think we get this where we get it without how great our crowd was tonight. I’ve tried to praise the crowd since I’ve been here. I never take them for granted. The crowd’s energy tonight was the best it has been all year, not just opening bell and not just during the I’m talking about when we got down, because it won’t be the last time this team gets down. We’ve got to be able to pull through, and the crowd should feel great about what they did tonight.
What’s this say about how far you guys have come in the last few weeks? Not only the wins but the way you’ve played?
They’re just getting better. I’m not ready to quantify that and say something miraculous has happened. It hasn’t. There is a lot of room for improvement. When you win them every day, you’re focused on the improvement more than you’re focused on the successes. I think this is great.
The other day really helped change us because two things happened that hadn’t happened. We made a big comeback, okay? 15 points down. We haven’t done that, okay? Then we were phenomenal. I think we executed on ten of our last 11 possessions in the Penn State game whether we scored or got fouled. We hadn’t done that either. So all of a sudden, you get into a game like that, a tough team that everybody has respect for. Our guys have respect for. And you find a way to accomplish two things that you haven’t done. So you can’t quantify that.
But, again, some of that carried over into tonight. Hopefully, we’ll learn more from this and learn more in the next game and continue to have good practices and continue to improve.
You talked about this a little bit with Yogi and obviously people have thought about the young players learning things. But how big was it for him to have those plays down the stretch, considering how much of a role you’ve put on him this year?
It was big.
The jumper and the free throws in the end.
It was big. Again, we started making a run without him. I think it’s really important that everybody on the team understand that we have to play a certain way. You have to take what the game is giving you. Some nights it’s going to be balanced. I mean, we were Noah had six points at the half. Great example he had 12 the other day right away and everybody was in a post, then he hit a three. And he hits two threes tonight because he was in space. Yet we were getting to the rim and we had 14 lay ups. So we didn’t establish the post game because we were driving to the rim, and we had the court spaced. So we were doing good things.
The game is always giving you something no matter who you’re playing, and you’ve got to stay diligent enough to figure that out. Don’t get away from it until it’s not working, then hopefully you have enough other things that you can go to.
That’s what Yogi’s got to continue to grow into, and he is. There is no question about it. Like I said, concept wise, and then being game plan specific, without being specific, he did a fantastic job of that tonight. He’s really, really grown as a player, and grown as a leader.
Do you see any parallels between the Penn State win and this win and the NC State win and Kentucky wins a couple of years back?
Oh, man, no, man. I can’t even think like that. It’s so different. This team, like I said in the beginning, the programs have great wins. This team needed this. This team needed Saturday too. The coaches that I heard from the last couple days knew how big a win that is because people know how tough Penn State is. They know how tough it is to go in there and how tough it is to win when you’re down 15, so that was huge. Then coming back and getting this was really good.
I thought they really locked in. You’d like to have more time for Wisconsin, but we didn’t, and it doesn’t matter. You have to come out, and you have to execute. Sometimes you have to make some changes on the fly, and our team is really growing and doing that.
Obviously, Jeremy Hollowell, didn’t play. Is this going to be a long term situation?
We’ll see. I’ll play him when I put him in. He’s doing a fantastic job. He’s trying to help make sure that he is getting his focused to be prioritized, and then we’ll go from there.